The Starting Nine: World Series 2023 Predictions and Preview
The Starting Nine: World Series 2023
Obviously, everyone had the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers pegged for the 2023 World Series when the regular season began. Heck, this matchup is so improbable, that I would venture that not a single expert had this matchup pegged by even the divisional round or even after both teams hit the road in their respective League Championship Series down 3-2. But, here we are, from the beleaguered offices of MLB, with the Arizona Diamondbacks taking on the Texas Rangers in the 2023 World Series.
Starting Pitching: The Rangers came into the season with high hopes after acquiring Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi to headline their rotation. Unfortunately, deGrom was long gone for the season before he had time to get accustomed to the Texas heat. Eovaldi has lived up to his end of the bargain even while missing nearly two months of the season with injuries of his own. Texas was active at the deadline and added Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery to the rotation. Scherzer apparently drank the infected clubhouse water that injured Rangers’ starting pitchers and missed nearly all of September and the first two rounds of the playoffs. Montgomery brought his own bottled water with him from St. Louis and has become pitching ace 1A behind Eovaldi in the playoffs. The Rangers are lined up in the World Series with Eovaldi in game 1 followed by Montgomery and what they hope will be a now acclimated Scherzer making his third start of the postseason. Game four will be a bullpen game with the likes of Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, and Cody Bradford likely available.
The Diamondbacks have a formidable duo of their own in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. The duo combined for 29 wins and 38 quality starts during the regular season. Arizona struggled all year to fill the remaining spots in the rotation but seems to have found something toward the end of the season in rookie righty Brandon Pfaadt. Pfaadt has gotten even better in the postseason with a 2.70 ERA and K/9 rate of 11.9. He’s had two excellent showings in closeout games against the Dodgers and again against the Phillies in game seven. It is hard to imagine the World Series stage being too big for Pfaadt. Like the Rangers, the Diamondbacks will have to piece together pitchers in game four.
EDGE: Rangers; Eovaldi has been dominant in the postseason thus far with a 4-0 record and should have a large advantage in his matchups with Gallen. Despite winning 17 games in the regular season with 20 quality starts, Gallen has looked far too hittable in the postseason and has coughed up 6 home runs in his last three starts. The other matchups are nearly even but the gap between Eovaldi and Gallen is too great.
Bullpens: Two of baseball’s worst bullpens in the regular season have completely turned things around in the postseason. The Rangers remain the only team in baseball history with more blown saves than saves to make the postseason. Since then, Rangers Manager Bruce Bochy has been able to cobble together reliable relievers at the back end of his bullpen and helped to turn things around. The Rangers pen, led by Josh Sborz, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc, has put together a postseason line of a 3.72 ERA in 48 1/3 innings with three saves and ten holds.
The Diamondbacks have a similar story to the Rangers. Their bullpen has hit its stride in the postseason under manager Torey Lovullo. He has utilized Andrew Saalfrank, Ryan Thompson, Kevin Ginkel, and closer Paul Sewald to near perfection in the playoffs. The D-backs bullpen has a 2.94 ERA in 49 innings in the postseason with 17 holds and six saves.
EDGE: Diamondbacks; The Diamondbacks bullpen has a better ERA and has been asked to do a bit more than the Rangers’ bullpen has to even better results. There is still a bit of doubt with Chapman and Leclerc in the back of the Rangers’ pen while Ginkel and Sewald have been nearly perfect.
Lineups: The Rangers have been one of the best-hitting teams in baseball all season. Corey Seager has carried over a dominant season into the playoffs and Adolis Garcia has been a power-producing machine. The Rangers can be streaky but after scoring 20 runs in the final two games of the ALCS, they appear to be streaking in the right direction once again. This lineup offers few breaks 1-9 and can wear down an opposing pitching staff. Looking for a sneaky World Series MVP? How about Evan Carter (+2000)? The rookie outfielder is hitting over .300 in the playoffs, has three stolen bases, and has seven extra-base hits. Penciled in the order between Seager and Garcia, the youngster has thrived.
The Diamondbacks’ lineup isn’t imposing on paper but they get the job done. Lovullo has worked his magic with certain left/right platoons and the team still hasn’t seen the best of ROY favorite Carroll in the playoffs. Martel, however, has been outstanding. The switch-hitting second baseman has hit safely in all 16 playoff games thus far. In the NLCS, he hit .387 with 12 hits, four doubles, a triple, and stolen base to take home the MVP. The one concern for Arizona is the poor play of first baseman Christian Walker. Walker is hitting just .176 in the postseason and his bat looks very slow. Watch out for him against Montgomery in game two, however. He hits lefties very well and Montgomery relies more on his changeup than fastball.
EDGE: Rangers; Too much depth in the order and too much power. The Diamondbacks certainly don’t want this series to turn into a hitting contest. They won’t win that way.
Managers: Hard to argue with Bruce Bochy’s numbers, numbers that will get him into Cooperstown someday. He has been a big league manager for 26 seasons and has the 10th-most wins in baseball history with 2,093. In the postseason, Bochy is now 50-24 overall with three World Series titles heading into this World Series. Bochy has also never lost a game 7 as a manager. He will attempt to join Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa as the only managers ever to win a World Series in each league. Rare company indeed.
Torey Lovullo has a losing overall record in his eight years as a big-league manager. He is 523-557 with four winning seasons out of seven with the Diamondbacks and a winning record in an abbreviated stint as the Red Sox manager at the end of 2015. Lovullo has made some difficult decisions this postseason, including yanking Kelly in game six despite the veteran’s protests. Everything he has touched so far has turned to gold this postseason.
EDGE: Rangers; Lovullo has been very good this October but he can’t hold a candle to Bochy’s resume. If this series comes down to critical moves, I’m feeling better about a manager who has never lost a game seven and has three World Series trophies on his mantle.
PREDICTION: Rangers (-170) in Six
The Rangers are a perfect 8-0 on the road in the postseason. Read that again. Eight wins without a loss. This team will not be rattled by a hostile crowd and, quite frankly, the Diamondbacks don’t possess a particularly daunting home-field advantage. Bochy’s experience will be critical in this series, particularly in dealing with his bullpen. The Rangers’ lineup is relentless and has too much firepower. I think the Diamondbacks will steal game two with Kelly pulling out a tough win over Montgomery and the Rangers. I can even see them stealing game three because I like the strikeout-throwing Pfaadt against this Rangers lineup. After that, however, the advantage will shift back to the Rangers. They will find a way in game four because they have a better lineup in a battle of openers. Eovaldi will continue his dominant postseason in game five and the Rangers will not let this series go to seven games with Montgomery back on the mound in game six at home. I think this series will be better than expected and introduce the baseball